Tales from the vault

The next Stan’s Stories will be posted in mid-August.

Stan two

T.R. Woodhouse “Caught The Bug”

by Stan Nowak

Thomas Roy Woodhouse once warned, “Never get bitten by the historical bug or you’re a goner”. Mr. Woodhouse first caught ‘the bug’ at the Bell Telephone Company, where he worked. He was asked to research some of the company’s history, and he was ‘a goner’ for the rest of his life. His passion led him to help establish five historical societies, including the first Dundas Historical Society. He was also president of the Ontario, Head-of-the-Lake and the Dundas Historical Societies, as well as honorary president of the Ancaster Historical Society.

Soon after Mr. Woodhouse was born on December 30, 1892, his father died. Roy’s family lived in Dundas, but when his mother remarried, he moved to Westdale and lived there for the rest of his life, but he never forgot his Dundas roots.

From 1910, Mr. Woodhouse worked with the Bell Telephone Company, eventually retiring in 1956 as plant engineer in charge of the design of poles, wires, cables and conduits in the Niagara Peninsula. For three years, he was also supervisor of training for all telephone engineers in Ontario. His service with Bell was interrupted between 1916 and 1919, when he served in the military during World War I, first with the 205th Machine Gun Battalion, Hamilton, and later with the 164th Engineers Battalion. He later wrote, “My service was fairly uneventful. The big thing I learned was never to volunteer for anything.” It’s a good thing he never took that lesson to heart.

On April 12, 1945, the Dundas Historical Society, which he co-founded, held its inaugural meeting and he was appointed to its first Council as Historian. He also gave an address on “Early History of Dundas and Vicinity”. Some of the crème de la crème of Dundas society with names like Bertram, Grafton, Pirie, Lennard, and Bain sat on that first council.

One of the objectives of the Historical Society was ‘to stimulate interest in local history’. It was in this ‘stimulation of interest’ that Roy Woodhouse excelled. His body of written work contains countless articles and publications, the most well known in Dundas being “The History of the Town of Dundas” trilogy written between 1965 and 1968, and “The Birth of the Town of Dundas”, published in 1951. He also contributed to publications of other Historical Societies, such as the “Wentworth Bygones” periodicals of the Head-of-the-Lake Society.

Another aim of the new society was to collect, store, and preserve historic material, and to provide for its accessibility to the general public. On April 21, 1956, under the sponsorship of the Historical Society, and the exceptional work of H. Graham Bertram and Mr. Woodhouse, that objective was fulfilled when the Dundas Historical Society Museum was officially opened to the public to assure the safe management of our historical artifacts for future generations.

Today, the Museum stands as a modern day monument to the Dundas citizens who desired to preserve the story of the Dundas community. Roy Woodhouse is gone, having died in June 1978, and the first Historical Society itself has faded into history. For at least a generation, there was no Historical Society in Dundas.In November 2002, a committee of dedicated individuals worked diligently towards the birth of a new Historical Society for Dundas, to be called the “Dundas Valley Historical Society”. On Wednesday, May 19, 2004, the DVHS held its first Annual General Meeting at the Dundas Museum.dvhs-004